Saints come from two goals down to dump league cham­pi­ons at Dun­tocher

The Oban Times - - Sport -

OBAN Saints made their penul­ti­mate away trip of a long and ar­du­ous sea­son last Wed­nes­day evening when they trav­elled to Dun­tocher to face Scot­tish Ama­teur Foot­ball League Pre­mier Divi­sion cham­pi­ons St Joseph’s FP. Saints re­turned home with an ex­cel­lent 4-2 win un­der their belts which will go a long way to re­pair­ing the pride so se­verely dented af­ter the pre­vi­ous Fri­day night’s sur­prise Jimmy Mar­shall Trophy fi­nal de­feat to Easthall Star. Wor­thy cham­pi­ons St Joe’s had dropped just five league points all sea­son and went into their fi­nal fix­ture of the sea­son un­beaten in the league since their open­ing day de­feat to close neigh­bours Gold­en­hill. The Dun­tocher men, who re­cently crowned a very successful first sea­son in charge for new man­age­ment team Ajie McCall and Gary McGroarty with the cap­ture of the Cen­te­nary Cup, would have been des­per­ate to notch home and away vic­to­ries over their old ri­vals. How­ever, it was Saints who showed steely de­ter­mi­na­tion to fight back from two goals down and claim a de­served vic­tory.

Man­ager Alex Craik saw Thomas McCul­loch, Myles McAu­ley, Paul Carmichael, Kerr New­big­ging and Dean Smith drop out from the pre­vi­ous Fri­day’s squad, with Gra­ham Dou­glas, Daniel Croarkin and the gaffer him­self com­ing in as more than ca­pa­ble re­place­ments.

Dif­fi­cult

Hosts St Joseph’s FP kicked off on a poor William Street sur­face which West Dun­bar­ton­shire Coun­cil had for­got­ten to cut and line, mak­ing for a dif­fi­cult evening for both sets of play­ers and ref­eree John McQuil­ter.

A di­ag­o­nal ball over the top from left- sided mid­fielder Cameron Harkins gave the Saints de­fence its first test which Dene Cas­sells an­swered well, match­ing the run of striker Gre­gor Cree to cut out the dan­ger.

Saints’ first at­tempt on goal came in the sixth minute from a Wil­lie Gem­mell throw-in on the left which Craig MacEwan back-headed inches wide of the base of the keeper’s left-hand post.

The early spar­ring con­tin­ued with both sides hav­ing ef­forts just off tar­get within a minute of each other.

The un­pre­dictable sur­face al­most caught out Saints keeper Gra­ham Dou­glas in the 16th minute when try­ing to deal with rou­tine pass-back. ‘Sugar’ couldn’t get the ball un­der con­trol quickly enough and was quickly closed down by Ryan Halpin, who charged down the at­tempted clear­ance. For­tu­nately, the ball spun away from goal, al­low­ing a rather re­lieved Dou­glas to safely gather.

Jamie Gra­ham’s re­fusal to give up on what looked like an over-hit 19th-minute David McArthur pass on the right set up cap­tain Ross Mait­land, who beat Fraser Mur­ray be­fore send­ing in a cross which was cut out by Kieran Boyce with Don­ald Camp­bell and Craig MacEwan wait­ing in the mid­dle.

The dead­lock was bro­ken in the 29th minute when Saints gave too much space to St Joe’s ma­raud­ing right back Craig Cameron. Cut­ting in­side Scott Mait­land, Cameron sent a low cross along the six-yard which Gre­gor Cree grate­fully tucked away at the back post.

Saints re­sponded well to the set­back and came within inches of an equaliser just two min­utes later. Ross Mait­land won a throw-in on the right level with the 18-yard line which, in­stead of the an­tic­i­pated long throw, Wil­lie Gem­mell took short to Brian Mackay. Brian’s re­turn ball was whipped in at pace by Wil­lie to the back post where Craig MacEwan got in front of Craig Cameron to flash a head- er inches wide of Sean Gib­bons’ right-hand post.

The re­main­der of the fairly even first half passed by with­out sig­nif­i­cant in­ci­dent, leav­ing Saints feel­ing slightly dis­ap­pointed to be be­hind.

The Oban side kicked off the sec­ond half play­ing down the gen­tle William Street slope and were quickly on the at­tack with Jamie Gra­ham mak­ing good progress on the right and Don­ald Camp­bell blaz­ing a David McArthur cut-back over the bar from 18 yards.

Dis­as­ter struck for Saints af­ter just four sec­ond half min­utes when Gra­ham Dou­glas dal­lied too long on a Dene Cas­sells pass back and was robbed by Ryan Halpin just in­side the 18-yard box. He then had the sim­plest of tasks to roll the ball into the un­guarded net, dou­bling the hosts’ ad­van­tage.

Spec­tac­u­lar

Saints hauled them­selves back into the match in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion in the 58th minute from a sweetly struck Scott Mait­land 30-yard ef­fort which ar­rowed into the roof of the net, giv­ing Sean Gib­bons no chance.

Af­ter 60 min­utes Marc Maccal­lum made way for Matthew Kelly, who took up his ac­cus- tomed right back po­si­tion, with Jamie Gra­ham mov­ing into the mid­dle to fill the space va­cated by Maccal­lum.

It was very much game on in the 62nd minute when a neatly threaded David McArthur pass picked out Don­ald Camp­bell’s run from mid­field. With the home de­fence caught square, Don­ald raced through the mid­dle and passed the ball pre­cisely into the bot­tom cor­ner past the left hand of Sean Gib­bons.

The vis­i­tors com­pleted the turn­around in the 67th minute from an­other Gra­ham Dou­glas clear­ance. Craig MacEwan held off the at­ten­tions of Craig Cameron on the Saints’ left and played the ball in­field to Don­ald Camp­bell. Don­ald’s per­fectly weighted pass sat up invit­ingly for Brian Mackay to stroke the ball into the bot­tom cor­ner just out of reach of the ad­vanc­ing Sean Gib­bons.

Man­ager Alex Craik added some fresh legs in the 69th minute when Ross Mait­land made way for Fraser Mac­Far­lane.

A ter­rific cross-field pass from Don­ald Camp­bell in the 71st minute saw Saints come within a post’s width of adding a fourth when Brian Mackay hit the out­side of Sean Gib­bons’ left-hand post af­ter pulling down Don­ald’s pass from wide on the Saints left.

St Joe’s were un­beaten in 17 home league and cup fix­tures and were in no mood to meekly sur­ren­der this proud record to their old ri­vals.

Good cross

When St Joe’s did threaten in the 80th minute, Dene Cas­sells made a good block to stop Kieran O’Brien with the ball break­ing out to the left from where Cameron Harkins de­liv­ered a good cross which Ryan Halpin headed just wide of Sugar’s left-hand post.

Wil­lie Gem­mell turned the clock back sev­eral years with an 86th-minute lung-burst­ing run for a Fraser Mac­Far­lane pass which Kieran O’Brien read well to beat Wil­lie and turn out for a throw-in.

Wil­lie took the throw-in quickly to Craig MacEwan, who turned away from Kieran Boyce and raced into the box, send­ing a cut-back to Brian Mackay who fired a first-time ef­fort wide of Sean Gib­bons’ right-hand post.

Mackay was, how­ever, not to be de­nied his sec­ond goal of the evening with Craig MacEwan and Wil­lie Gem­mell again both heav­ily in­volved in the buildup. Wil­lie’s 88th minute ball up the left for Craig MacEwan saw Saints’ top scorer turn provider, trick­ing his way past Kearn Docherty and clip­ping the ball over Sean Gib­bons and Martin McComish in the six-yard box for Brian Mackay to side-foot home at the back post.

Daniel Croarkin came on to re­place Don­ald Camp­bell for the clos­ing stages, mak­ing his first ap­pear­ance since re­cov­er­ing from a long-term in­jury.

Saints com­fort­ably saw out the three ad­di­tional min­utes al­lowed by Mr McQuil­ter to seal a de­served vic­tory over this sea­son’s league cham­pi­ons.

Man­ager Alex Craik was de­lighted with the per­for­mance. He said: ‘We played some great foot­ball on a very tricky sur­face. I was a bit dis­ap­pointed with the two goals we lost, but once we got into our stride there was only go­ing to be one win­ner.’

The Oban side make their fi­nal away trip of the sea­son this Satur­day when they head to the tail o’ the bank to face In­ver­clyde on the 3G sur­face at Bat­tery Park, Greenock, with a noon kick- off so the boys can get back to Oban to watch the Scot­land v Eng­land game.

Match re­port and photos: Derek Black

Brian MacKay tucks away Saints’ fourth goal against St Joseph’s at William Street last Wed­nes­day.

Don­ald Camp­bell takes on Kieran O’Brien.

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